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2014 Audi A3 e-tron: Full Details On Audi’s Plug-In Hybrid

“We’re proud the Audi A3 e-tron doesn’t look like an electric car.”

Ouch.

If Audi is truly serious about electric vehicles, that probably isn’t the phrase we’d have chosen to prove it, while showing off its new plug-in hybrid A3 model.

But then, the Ingolstadt automaker might be on to something–for every customer that wants their electrically-powered car to stand out from the crowd and inform the world they’re driving a green vehicle, there are plenty more who’d rather not shout about it.

And while the bright red A3 e-tron looked shiny and sophisticated in Audi’s carefully orchestrated launch environment, out on the road it’ll look very much like any other A3. Few will know just how different it is under the skin.

Audi’s prose might still have hinted at an underlying cynicism in electric vehicles, but the car’s engineering suggests anything but.

Plug-in hybrid

Unlike the original A3 e-tron prototypes, and indeed most other e-tron concepts over the last few years, the production vehicle is a plug-in hybrid, rather than a battery electric vehicle.

In the nose you’ll find a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine, working with an electric motor. Together, they produce 204 horsepower and a punchy 258 pounds-feet of torque, much of which is developed usefully low down.

It’s sent through what Audi calls its e-S tronic transmission–essentially Audi’s standard dual-clutch automatic, with 75 lbs of electric motor sandwiched between the car’s dual-mass flywheel and clutch.

The setup is remarkably compact. Audi moved the engine further to the right of the engine bay (or the left, if viewed from in front of the car), the electric motor and transmission sitting beside.

Much of the car’s low-revs power stems from the electric motor, with the gasoline engine taking over at 2,200 rpm as it creeps into the meat of its torque band.

Lively acceleration is therefore a given, the 0-62 mph sprint dealt with in 7.6 seconds and only running out of steam at 138 mph. Battery power alone can be used up to 80 mph.

Braking is almost entirely done using the motor’s regenerative resistance, though hard braking will rely on friction brakes, as in most electric vehicles.
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